The Conservatives are promising to boost the ranks of Canada's special forces over the next seven years, adding $75-million to the defence budget by the time the expansion is complete.
In making the announcement, the Conservatives signalled where they feel the military should go in the coming years with special forces in training and combat roles in places like Iraq where forces are battling the so-called Islamic State.
"This is the kind of relatively new global security threat which the Canadian Armed Forces must be prepared to address and obviously special operations forces are often the most useful asset in conflicts of this nature," Defence Minister Jason Kenney said in a telephone interview.
Kenney also suggested boosting the special forces would help if the military ever needed to deploy those specially-trained soldiers domestically in response to a terrorist attack on Canadian soil.
"This is a very agile, high-value military asset," Kenney said. "I believe most of our allied countries are also beefing up their special operations forces. So what we're doing is a reflection of I think a strategic consensus around the world about the versatility and relevance of special operations forces in the current strategic environment."
With Stephen Harper taking a break from the campaign trail today, Kenney made the Conservative campaign promise Saturday at an event in Regina.
Canada's special operations forces include the secretive Joint Task Force 2; the Canadian Special Operations Regiment; 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron; the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit; and the Canadian Special Operations Training Centre.
Together, they include just over 1,900 personnel. The Conservatives want to add some 665 members to the special forces by the year 2022, an increase of about 35 per cent.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Conservatives framed the promise as a way to ensure Canada can confront international security threats around the world, such as the current conflict in Iraq and Syria, and tried to stake ground between themselves and the opposition parties.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has said he would act swiftly to end Canada's role in the American-led coalition that's currently bombing militant positions in Iraq and Syria, opting instead for a humanitarian option focused in part on helping Syrian refugees. Mulcair has insisted the mission does not fall under the United Nations or NATO.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has proposed what he calls a "balanced and reasonable position" that would turn the Canadian mission into a training exercise to help Iraqi fighters fend off Islamic State fighters, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Kenney said the Conservatives also remain keen on finishing a new training centre for Joint Task Force 2 at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario, which hit legal roadblocks over the government's move to expropriate land from a local farmer whose family has been on the property for 200 years. Kenney said defence officials are still trying to crunch the numbers on the final price tag for the move and the construction of a new training facility at the base, which is reportedly to cost more than $300-million.
"We do still intend to make the capital investment for new (Joint Task Force 2) training facility attached to CFB Trenton, but we haven't yet got a final dollar figure on that," Kenney said.